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Somehow being busy became a status symbol. According to a series of 2016 Journal of Consumer Research studies about 12 percent of all tweets from thousands of celebrities were “Humblebrags” about being busy and “having no life or needing a vacation.” This quickly snowballed into posts and Instagrams about working nonstop including advertising campaigns complaining about busy lives.
Suddenly a whole new culture of people believing that working nonstop connoted higher status and more money was borne along with ubiquitous products with everything from bluetooth headsets, weighted blankets to sophisticated delivery services to support the trend.
University of Chicago professor of behavioral science and marketing Christopher Hsee even observed “People dread idleness, and their professed reasons for activity may be mere justifications for keeping busy.” The tables have turned. Now executives from Arianna Huffington to UK-based This Works’ CEO Anna Persaud are sharing insights into how ‘The Cult Of Busy’ may actually be leading us astray, and why getting enough sleep and caring for one’s well being is actually far more productive in the long term.
With This Works award-winning sleep solutions and everyday skincare products from Deep Sleep Pillow Sprays, Stress Check Breath In Spray to In Transit Close-up just launching in Ulta it seemed the timing was perfect for Persaud, an acknowledged beauty and wellness expert, to share how she and the rest of us can break the busyness habit and lead more balanced, productive lives.
NJ Falk: What are your thoughts on the “Cult of Busy” and how it has infiltrated daily life as a status symbol?
Anna Persaud: I think company culture has a large role to play in the ‘Cult of Busy’. For example, I know that there are companies where not sleeping (eight hours per night) is considered a status symbol associated with power players and over-achievers in business and life.
But there is also a counter-culture growing where self-care and wellness are perceived as the new symbols of success and the signature of someone in control, able to deliver professionally without it being at the expense of their health or mental well-being. Businesses are also starting to set a framework in place to help their employees achieve this balance.
This shift is being driven by people suffering from burn-out and recognizing that sleep is not only the new luxury, but a physiological necessity – perhaps most famously by Arianna Huffington – and also the new Millennial workforce, who we see deeply value (and expect) work life balance.
NJ Falk: Knowing that you expertly balance motherhood, family, work, and travel, how do you know when to say “enough is enough” and how do you prioritize self-care?
Anna Persaud: Truthfully, I don’t always. I don’t think anyone manages this 100% of the time, but I have always been very disciplined with my time and routine which helps. As the CEO of a fast-growth business with an international footprint, you’re never truly ‘off’ and there are always compromises, but I work hard to manage my calendar and carve out clear blocks of time for my family, my company, and myself.
Where possible, I’ll go to yoga before I go home to take on family responsibilities. I’ll then spend time clearing my inbox – then and only then will I do something like check social media, and I’m strict about turning all technology off an hour before I go to bed at around 10.30pm.
On weekends, I zone my email time to Saturday morning – to pick-up late-night US emails from Friday and Sunday evening, I’m then able to concentrate on spending time with family and friends.
I have also always found regular exercise key to balancing my own sense of health and well-being. I am very disciplined, but my routine isn’t set in stone. I can quickly tell when that balance is off and ‘enough is enough’ as I’m no less busy but I’m far less effective. So I am careful and cognizant of making adjustments on the fly.
NJ Falk: What are the benefits, both short and long term, of personal wellness? How do you prioritize wellness and recharge?
As a trained fitness instructor, prioritizing personal wellness and staying fit means managing stress and specifically cortisol levels. From our work and research into Circadian Rhythm we know that we all experience and increase in the level of cortisol on waking, which is a necessary and a natural part of the transition from the sleep to the awake phase of the 24 hr cycle. High and sustained levels lead to feelings of stress and anxiety throughout the day and can make falling asleep hard come night time. We also know that scientists have observed that a high level of Cortisol is also linked with flare ups and skin conditions which are related to our immune systems such as acne, dermatitis and psoriasis.
Exercise is a go-to stress reliever and a good way of burning off Cortisol, but I also think that our reliance on technology serves to further our need to always be seen to be on. As a result, I limit my screen time – with at least two technology free hours a day. First thing in the morning there are no phones or TVs on in the house. At night everything is turned off at least an hour before I want to go to sleep, aiming for eight hours a night, and there are no screens in the bedroom.
I also surround myself with things I like in my bedroom that make me happy. If I find my mind is racing and struggling to switch off, I’ll use our deep sleep pillow spray (which has been proven to help calm a racing mind) and practice some deep breathing exercises.
NJ Falk: How does minding your circadian rhythm play into your overall efficiency?
Anna Persuad: A key part of understanding Circadian Rhythm is understanding your chronotype which is your natural inclination towards day or night-time activities. There are two types of chronotypes – larks who are individuals who wake early in the morning and go to bed early at night and owls who remain alert until the late hours of the evening but struggle to wake-up early. Understanding which type of personality you are means being able to plan accordingly to maximize your natural efficiency.
Finally, if you want to break your own cult of busy habits, here’s a list of ways to get your work life balance back on track based on Persuad’s insights.
- Divide parts of your day into work life segments and then stick to them via an organized calendar.
- Are you a lark or an owl? Be sure to understand your circadian rhythm and plan your day and sleep pattern around it. For larks, Persaud recommends doing any creative work or big decision making in the morning. In the evening, do the day to day admin or mundane tasks involved with running a business. Owls should adjust their hours accordingly to do mundane tasks at the start of their day and use the wee hours for creative thinking.
- Create email “zone times” and aim for at least two technology free hours a day.
- Avoid unhealthy props – such as addiction to your phone, seeking information constantly, using caffeine (or other stimulants) in an unhelpful way, using sugar for an energy boost, or alcohol as a relaxant. Give yourself permission to not be as considerate of other people as you may otherwise be – turning down invitations because you’re ‘too busy’. It’s an addictive mind-set and a hard habit to break. Start slowly and work your way toward a better balance.
- In the evenings try to keep low lighting using uplighters only versus overhead lighting. Persuad also recommends sleep oil in the hour or so before bed to help relax, loud sounds or music banned and instead listening to calming music, only eating light meals in the evening, and avoiding over-stimulation. For example, Persaud never watchs anything distressing or frightening at night.
For entrepreneurs and corporate executives, Persaud also shared five innovative ways This Works supports the larger mission of ‘Bucking the Cult of Busy.’ Any and all of these ideas may be worth adapting within your own workplace.
- A flexible two hour start and finish window, so that team members can plan their day based on when they are at their most efficient.
- Stress check Friday’s whereby staff who have hit their contracted hours are able to leave at 3.30 pm.
- A heavily subsidized gym membership for all team members, with daytime work-outs or classes actively encouraged – especially during periods of high intensity.
- An insistence on people taking their holiday throughout the year.
- Frequent animal visitors to the office. Persaud regularly brings her dog to work and allow others to do the same.
Persaud sums it up best by observing that those who have managed balance in busyness have far fewer sick days, far better relationships with their colleagues, are much more creative, and are able to ultimately be more resilient. Seems like it’s time to buck the trend.
January 28, 2019 at 11:48AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs